#06 2020

SAEON Kids soak up knowledge at virtual Grade 11 science camps

By Nozi Hambaze and Kogie Govender, SAEON Science Engagement

Grade 11 learners from all SAEON nodes attended the virtual terrestrial and marine science camps using the Zoom platform. The terrestrial virtual camp commenced with a presentation by SAEON’s junior data scientist, Galetesang Keebine, and an activity on data visualisation utilising the data that learners collected from the iNaturalist competition, which had personal relevance for them. 

The budding scientists conducted a collaborative exercise in Zoom breakout rooms during which they analysed global change data. This exercise reflected an improvement in the learners’ data-handling skills in the post-camp quiz compared with the pre-camp quiz, which was led by SAEON research scientist, Dr Rob Skelton.

The programme ended with an interesting presentation on climate change and adaptation, followed by an engaging activity that enabled learners to think critically and creatively using open-ended exploration and imaginative learning techniques by Dr Tony Swemmer, manager of the SAEON Ndlovu Node.

A glimpse into the multi-faceted world of marine science 

The Elwandle Node hosted and facilitated the marine science virtual camp by taking the ocean to the classroom or home. Students, technicians and scientists from the node facilitated the programme, which included a presentation by role model Zoleka Filander, a PhD student at Nelson Mandela University, who grew up in the rural Eastern Cape and completed her undergraduate studies at Walter Sisulu University. Zoleka not only motivated and encouraged learners to be committed to their studies, but also informed them about endless possibilities for career choices in the field of marine science.

Ross Lynne Gibb, a PhD student at the Elwandle Node, then introduced the learners to Algoa Bay phytoplankton and the role it plays in maintaining human health. This talk was followed by a presentation by another Elwandle Node PhD student, Phumlile Cotyane, on diatoms and how these are used in our everyday lives. Phumlile challenged learners to become diatom scientists for a day by matching a picture of a diatom with a description provided on the poll.

Professor Tommy Bornman, manager of the Elwandle Node, shared his Antarctica expedition experiences with the learners. His talk generated many questions – from the equipment used to questions about the science. The young explorers said they felt as if they were part of the expedition to Antarctica.

They were then taken on a biogeochemistry virtual laboratory tour where various instruments and their uses were explained. Water samples were analysed to demonstrate the water quality of a specific environment.

Learners were given background information about how tides are formed and were shown videos of rocky shore gradient. This helped them understand why certain species prefer certain zones as their habitat.

The photo quadrat activity allowed learners to sample their quadrat and count the number of species present in a specific quadrat allocated to them. They were able to determine which intertidal zone their quadrat represented. This session was presented by Elwandle Node technicians Werner Kuntz, Jethan d’ Hotman and Imtiyaaz Malick.

Learners that did not have access to devices were hosted by St Andrew’s College in Grahamstown for the terrestrial as well as the marine science camps. SAEON would like to offer its sincere gratitude to St Andrews College for enabling these learners to gain scientific knowledge and skills by accommodating the learners over two Saturdays.

In their feedback the learners had this to say about the Terrestrial and Marine Science Camps:

  • “I got to learn a lot about how well animals are adapted to deal with different climatic conditions.”
  • “Lessons were nice because the facilitators were effective and nice.”
  • “The part where we were supposed to make a new animal and how it adapts to an area.”
  • “I enjoyed the part where we calculated the amount of carbon dioxide from the year of my birth till now because it’s fascinating to learn about what happens to the world, where, how and why.”
  • “The presentations were educational in an exciting manner and it was my first virtual camp.”
  • “It was excellent and I learned many things.”
  • “The activities and presentations were pleasant and enjoyable. With the activities our brains got to exercise. Teamwork and listening to your team members’ perspective was very enjoyable.”
  • “The presentation was fun and educational. I got to learn about things I see daily and got answers to random questions I ask myself from time to time.”
  • “We had many interesting things to learn and I liked making my own creature.”
  • “I enjoyed the last activity by Dr Tony Swemmer because it was fun and made me think of all the good animals or things I’d come up with if I was given a chance.”
  • “The discussion about the rise in carbon dioxide levels.”
  • “The part where we had to create our imaginary animal, meeting new people and connecting with those learners I met during the previous camp.”
  • “I enjoyed being able to imagine myself creating a new species as zoology is one of my career field choices.”
  • “The activities led to great teamwork in our groups and we got to hear different perspectives from the group members. The fact that we got to exercise our brain.”
  • “The presentations were excellent as most of what was said we see in life.”
  • “What I enjoyed the most about the camp was the ‘adapt or die’ topic, because I learned how animals adapt to different seasons.”
  • “How animals are adapted for the areas in which they live.”
  • “The lesson about Antarctica.”
  • “The exercise where we had to identify and count species that were within a white PVC Quadrant Frame.”
  • “The two presentations about Antarctica. I never knew South Africans also visited Antarctica, let alone have a station there.”
  • “Professor Bornman’s presentation, it was very interesting and it answered a lot of my questions.”
  • “Prof Tommy Bornman’s presentation.”
  • “I got to interact with other learners.”
  • “Antarctica experience.”
  • “I’ve learned a lot about the ocean.”
  • “Learning about the Antarctic.”
  • “I enjoyed all of the presentations.”
  • “The presentation on Antarctica, an interesting and intriguing continent.”
  • “The phytoplankton and diatom presentation because it was very interesting… and my first time hearing those big words.”
  • “Professor Bornman’s trip to Antarctica. I saw myself in Antarctica and in the marine science field.”
  • “The quiz activities.”
  • “The topic of the intertidal zone was really interesting. I understood the behaviour of marine organisms.”

Nombulelo High School learners at St Andrew’s College during the grade 11 virtual Terrestrial Camp

Screenshot of PhD student Phumlile Cotyane presenting at the grade 11 Marine Science Camp